Every once in a while, someone will ask us why we don’t like A’s owners John Fisher and Lew Wolff.
Well, it’s not as much about ‘like’ as it is about trust. As in, we don’t trust Fisher and Wolff, and with good reason. Here’s the latest example:
In 2009, the Coliseum JPA began taxing parking revenue – a tax that the A’s owners have simply never paid. Instead, Fisher and Wolff immediately raised parking prices at A’s games, passing the cost of the parking fees onto the customer.
Here’s how cheap Fisher and Wolff are: They have a sweetheart lease at the Coliseum and have averaged more than $20 million in annual profit for years. Despite that, when the JPA asked Fisher and Wolff to simply honor their contract and pay what they owed, the owners just made the customer pay more to offset the difference.
But that’s not all. After raising prices on customers, Fisher and Wolff then just kept the money and NEVER PAID the JPA after all, according to a KTVU story last year. The KTVU story, which said the parking money issue was hurting talks to extend the A’s lease last year, then reported:
“The Coliseum Authority has alleged the team has withheld millions of dollars in taxes … The A’s are supposed to pay a portion of it in taxes, but insiders are saying the team is simply pocketing the money as a negotiation tactic … the Coliseum has been asking the team to pay back taxes for money the team collected for parking. Sources tell KTVU the A’s owe the city of Oakland more than $7 million. According to an Oct. 2012 email, the team flatly rejected paying back taxes, but said it would pay taxes going forward.”
About six months after that KTVU story, Fisher/Wolff and the JPA agreed to a two-year lease extension that ensures the A’s will play at the Coliseum through 2015. At that point (about six months ago), Fisher and Wolff reportedly STILL had not paid the parking revenue, and both sides agreed to let an arbitrator to decide the issue sometime later this year.
Let’s emphasize something here.
For years, Wolff has said that the city “has other priorities” more important than baseball to worry about. The statement is not only insulting to Oakland, it conveniently ignores the fact that EVERY city has more important considerations than sports.
But if those news reports are correct that the A’s have been pocketing money that they owed to the city and county, then here’s the punch line to Wolff’s unfunny joke: All the while Wolff was saying Oakland should worry about “other priorities,” Wolff and Fisher were pocketing millions of dollars that actually belonged to Oakland and Alameda County, not to two billionaires who receive $30 million in corporate welfare each year from fellow owners. Those millions of dollars that Fisher and Wolff got their hands on by raising parking prices on their customers is money that could have helped address those “other priorities” that every city has. Instead, Fisher and Wolff just kept it for themselves.
What informed A’s fans are keeping in the deal is the mistrust that Fisher and Wolff have earned yet again.